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It’s been fun but the time has come

After limping along for the last few years I think this will probably be my last ever post on this blog.

Road Closed

I started the blog back in February 2006 and it grew over the next couple of years to have 1000 subscribers and 34 podcasts ranging from one-to-one interviews to group discussions. All great fun but in more recent years I’ve had less to say about the industry and less involvement in it. I’m still working hard as an affiliate and running a number of sites but I just get on with that rather than writing about it.

Life is changing though and at the end of October I’ll be starting a full time job working with my church in Edinburgh. My faith in God has always been central in my life so this is a good opportunity to put it into practice. I’ll be spending time visiting folks at home and in hospital as well as putting more time into our community outreach work. I’ll also be glad to speak to real people in a day instead of staring at a computer screen. The church is based in the centre of Edinburgh so all visitors welcome if you are in town one day.

Affiliate marketing has been good to me and I’ll always love the industry. I was never cut out for making the progression to “Performance Marketing”….

but I’ll still be working away as an affiliate in my spare time. It’s not retirement, more of a step back.

So thank you for reading my posts, listening to the podcasts and having discussion in the comments (blog comments! Remember them in the days before twitter ;-)). It’s been great fun but for now it’s so long and thanks for all the fish :-)

p.s. anyone want to buy a great domain name for a blog about being an affiliate?

Merchant Emails

While I rarely blog these days there doesn’t seem to be a day goes by where I don’t get a merchant email that I think is so badly thought through that I feel like posting about it. Generally after a few minutes getting on with some work I forget all about it but sometimes even hours afterwards I’m still trying to figure out the logic.

Mostly this is due to emails from Tradedoubler which for years now have been sent in an unreadable font size when viewed in Gmail but today they were not the offender :-)

I’m going to hide the merchant for now as I don’t really work with them but this is a great example of what not to do… (current commission rate on the program is 7%)

Dear All

We have traditionally not worked in a specific way with any affiliates but have just outsourced the management of our affiliates to XXXXXXX. This will mean that the affiliates will get more focused attention to drive the programme forwards. With this in mind we are reducing the blanket commission rates to 5% and this will take effect in 30 days.

Please do not hesitate to contact me should any queries arise.

Kind Regards

So the commission rate drops to pay for the agency which now manages the program? Or affiliates are to benefit so much from the introduction of the agency that they’ll earn even more with a lower commission rate?

I just can’t see the appeal for affiliates and I can’t understand the agency suggesting a model where the first move is a commission cut.

Any thoughts on this one?

Tracking outbound clicks with Google Analytics

Stable tracking is fundamental to the affiliate business model, without it we wouldn’t be able to operate. From the starting point where you need track the source that your website users arrive; all the way to relying on the tracking that your affiliate program uses in order to report sales to generate your commission.

The divide between your tracking from your own website and the affiliate programs has always caused me problems, I don’t just want to know that I’ve sent them a click which converted, I want to know the player journey, all the way from arriving on my site to visiting theirs, in order to help me optimise my marketing strategy and target converting sources more aggressively. This led me on to discover how to track my outbound clicks using Google Analytics, something which has helped me massively over the years.

I’ve provided a guide on how to track this and then use the information below.

How to add tracking:

  1. To start you need to navigate to the site profile which you want to track clicks from and then enter into the settings section. This is done by clicking the cog in the top-right corner.

  2. Now you’re in the settings section you should go to the ‘Goals’ tab. Choose which goal set you want to use (entirely based on your preference) and then click the ‘+Goal’ link.

  3. The last step in Google Analytics is to fill in the goal information which you want to be tracked. You’ll find the following fields to fill in:

    Goal Name: This is what you want the goal action to appear as when you look at your reports. In my case I want to check the users who click through to SuperCasino, so I’ve set it as ‘SuperCasino Click Through’.

    Active/Inactive: Make sure you select ‘Active’.

    Goal Type: Ensure that you have selected ‘URL Destination’.

    Goal URL: This section you can customise based on your ordering preference. I personally break it down into goal set and then an indication of the target destination. So in this case it would be:‘/G2/supercasino/’

    Find whatever works for you here.

    Match Type: Select ‘Head Match’.

    Case Sensitive: Leave unchecked.

    Goal Value: Unless you can assign an exact value to each outbound click, for example with a CPC deal, then you won’t be able to use this. I sometimes work out an average click/revenue figure, however I prefer to leave this blank.

  4. Now you’ve set up Google Analytics to report you’ll need to edit your outbound links to report the information you’ve set via JS. This is done by adding the following to your hyperlink code:

    onClick="javascript: pageTracker._trackPageview("Your Goal URL");

    So in my case, based on the information I entered in stage 3, that would leave me with the following URL in order to track SuperCasino click through rate:

    a href="http://www.supercasino.com/" onClick="javascript: pageTracker._trackPageview("/G2/supercasino/");"

    All the outbound Castle Casino links that you have added this to will now track as a goal conversion.

How to use the tracking:

Now you’ve started tracking outbound links you can start to analyse the data in order to improve your websites conversion rates.

The first and most obvious way to use the data is to correlate the click through rates that your affiliate program software gives you and that which Google Analytics reports. For example if I see 431 clicks to SuperCasino last month, but the software has only reported 200, then I know that something has gone wrong and I can conduct further tests to make sure data isn’t going missing.

Now the data starts to get a little bit more fun. We can break it down further to see the click conversion rates that each traffic source has provided us. This can help you work out the sources which actually convert for you, rather than just send you numbers.

As an example, previously I could only see that websiteA.com has sent me 5000 visitors in January and websiteB.com only 500, therefore I’ve always assumed that I should be focusing on getting a better listing on websiteA.com. However with this data you can see the actual conversions, and the visitors from websiteA.com only went through one of my links 25 times, whereas websiteB.com visitors went through 75 times as the traffic is a lot more suited. From filling the missing tracking link like this I could re-allocate entire my marketing efforts for the better!

As the above traffic sources images shows, most of our affiliate sites traffic come directly from search engines. But we want more information than that, so let’s break it down once again and find out how much each keyword converts for me. By doing this I know which keywords I should be targeting more aggressively, effectively changing my search strategy which was based just on volume.

An example of keyword goal conversations, with the keywords blocked, has been given below:

Out of the hundreds of ways to use this information, I’ll give you on final nugget. Breaking this down into geographic regions shows me which countries prefer which advertisements. For example I can see that visitors from the United States didn’t like the SuperCasino ad, so maybe we can serve them something else. On the other hand players from Spain loved it, so I’ll change the page layout to promote it more prominently.

I’m sure after all this you are seeing my point, the data allows you to break down conversion rates like never before, all using a tool most are familiar with. Take a few and install it, you may be as surprised at the results as I was!

About the Author:
David Merry is the Director of live casino CastleCasino.com and affiliate portal operator Right Casino Media; he initially started his online career in search engine optimisation.

For more information on joining the CastleCasino.com affiliate program please visit http://www.castleaffiliates.com.

Another Reason to love Paid on Results

Hi,

On the 06th December a visitor to your website clicked on an Affiliate URL
for a Merchant who has closed its Affiliate Program with Paid On Results.

The visitor was shown our Expired Links page, and given several other
related Merchants they may be interested in. This visitor followed one of
our related links and went onto make a purchase with Find Me A Gift.

Normally the commission due would just be added to your account, however
in this case you are currently not an Affiliate of Find Me A Gift. In
order for us to pass the commission onto you we first need you to join the
Find Me A Gift Affiliate Program

You can do this as normal though your Affiliate Control Panel, once you
have joined and been approved for this Merchant we will add the commission
due to you into your account.

If you have any questions please let us know.

Best Wishes,

Paid On Results Support Team.

Great use of technology to do something to reach a good outcome from an expired link. When the other options are sending the visitor through anyway or landing them on error page actually putting a solution in place that allows me to earn and another merchant to make the sale is fantastic. :)

ThirstyAffiliates Plugin – Josh Kohlbach Interview

A while back Josh Kahlbach got in touch to show me the ThirstyAffiliates WordPress plugin. I’m using it on one of my sites now so I sent Josh back some questions and here are his answers…

Tell us a bit about yourself?

Hi, I’m Josh Kohlbach, I’m a programmer from Brisbane, Australia. I’m the creator of ThirstyAffiliates affiliate link management plugin for WordPress as well as a handful of other non-premium plugins.

A bit about me?… Hrm, I’ve been into programming since I was about 13 years old (now 26), I have a degree in IT, and I’ve been studying business and marketing in my spare time for about the past 3 or 4 years.

What’s the idea behind this plugin?

The idea behind ThirstyAffiliates is quite simple and I’ve designed it to be a helpful and un-intrusive part of your affiliate marketing workflow.

I came up with the idea of an affiliate link manager after getting frustrated with having to create reviews for a computer hardware review site I was making and not being able to really track where my affiliate links were being used.

After a few times of needing to change one of my affiliate links and tracking down where I used that link in the past I finally did something about it.

Why your plugin and not others which have similar functions?

When I created ThirstyAffiliates I was actually looking for a plugin similar to mine to purchase. But everything in the industry was just so focused on cloaking and being deceptive by keyword link generation all over your blog. It just seemed like there was no tool that really focused on managing the links like assets.

My tool puts the focus on managing affiliate links in one place and providing a really great interface for getting those links into your posts and pages.

I’ve actually crafted a specialised link picker tool just for that. Most other plugins just give you a list of your links to insert or a nasty shortcode to remember which is absolutely useless once you have 100+ links. You really need a proper tool once you’re getting serious about affiliate marketing with more than the odd link here and there.

My plugin also does importing and exporting using the WordPress importer tool which means that you can setup your links once and import them to new websites you’re creating, saving hours of setup.

What other wordpress plugins do you recommend for affiliate marketing?

There are some really great review website plugins out there. If I was making a dedicated reviews website again I’d definitely look into purchasing a premium review plugin. Especially one that gets the social side of things going with user reviews.

Also, not really a plugin, but there’s heaps of great integrations with mailing list providers like MailChimp and Aweber. Drop in their plugin and activate a widget – building a mailing list doesn’t need to be difficult, but it’s something every affiliate should be doing as the engagement on that platform is a lot higher.

Thanks Josh :)

Buyagift – Extra Long Life Cookies

I’ve posted before about this but take a look at these stats

Two sales from the same cookie which was placed on the 1st October 2006! More than 5 years ago I sent this visitor through and earlier this month they earned me £15. Now I know all the stats probably say that a huge majority of sales take place within the standard 28 day cookie but this shows that it’s certainly not all of the sales. Also note that the same click and cookie led to two sales. Not all programmes will have a cookie which is valid for multiple events. Many are for the first sale only.

Can anyone beat that time between click and sale? Most people would have been through a few computers in that time nevermind not having cleaned out your browser cache and cookies.

I used to have a lot of traffic that worked well for Buyagift and it seems I really should be trying to get that back again instead of chasing single action 28 day cookies. Just to be clear the cookie length for the Buyagift program is 9999 Days :)

Buyagift are on Affiliate Window and have an impressive Christmas incentive running at the moment.

An Affiliate Needs More Than Commission

This is one of only a handful of guest posts I’ve allowed on this blog. I’ve published this one because Finch knows what he is talking about. Check out Finch Sells. It’s full of great information, mainly about CPA offers. My only warning would be that the industrial language might offend some.

An Affiliate Needs More Than Commission

Fraser’s blog here was one of the first I read before carving out a career in affiliate marketing. My first dealings with the industry were purely voyeurism.

I would watch in wonder, sixteen tabs up during my lunch break, trying to understand how such a simple business model could provide such a fundamentally different work environment to my 9-5.

Three years on and my position is reversed. I now shoot off my own advice as a blogger and full-time affiliate.

I get to hear many questions from newbies trying to break in to the industry. The curiosity has grown, and grown. It seems everybody wants a piece of the affiliate marketing pie. But what about those who have been around the block for several years and have felt their love affair with the industry begin to wear off?

I think every affiliate, sooner or later, has to hit the wall.

When the thrill of earning ‘easy money’ wears off – at least, that’s what it’s called by my friends and family – the real challenge of staying motivated kicks in.

Being a middleman is a tough gig. How do you stay motivated without the pride of customers thanking you, or without the credit for driving a company to the next level? We are invisible, and with no attachment to what we sell other than the numbers on the cheques we receive.

I’ve battled for many months to conquer the overwhelming feeling of indifference. Truth be told, once the novelty of making good money wears off, it’s pretty tough to be satisfied – unless you’re working on projects that inspire something greater than financial security.

Clearly, an affiliate needs more than just commission to stay motivated.

It’s hard to get out of bed to work on a website if that website is only ever destined to satisfy a disconnected algorithm in Google’s underbelly. How do you motivate yourself to rank for products that, all commission aside, you barely give a rat’s arse about?

I think this is a problem many affiliate marketers face. They simply fall out of love with their projects. They don’t truly believe in them in the way that a driven entrepreneur should.

It’s one of the reasons so few of our projects ever come to fruition. If we don’t enjoy working on them, we can find plenty of reasons not to work on them. I know I can.

I believe I’ve created the world’s most emphatic repertoire of excuses to justify my own lackadaisical attitude to the websites I don’t like working on. Just last night the dog ate my FTP password.

Indifference, lack of passion, lack of excitement… call it whatever you want. We all need to engage in projects where there’s more than just a financial incentive, but something that gets us out of bed too.

And so, the number one piece of advice I give to new affiliates is pretty simple.

If you wouldn’t do exactly what you’re proposing for the reward of $0, then you probably shouldn’t do it at all. It’s passion and the desire to see projects through to their conclusion that separates the rich from the poor in our business. Do yourself a favour and work on something that gets you out of bed, or you’ll find yourself wishing you were back there long before lunch.

Finch

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Fraser Edwards has been involved in affiliate marketing for more than 10 years after starting out in business as a website developer and stumbling into affiliate marketing instead.

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